Catherine Sophia Callbeck

Catherine Sophia Callbeck

Served during the following dates: 1974-04-29; 1993-03-29

CALLBECK, LLD., HONOURABLE CATHERINE SOPHIA, businessperson; b. 25 July 1939 in Central Bedeque, daughter of Ralph R. Callbeck and Ruth Campbell; United.
Callbeck, a Liberal, was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in the general election of 1974 for 4,n Prince. She was re-elected in the general election of 1993 for 1st Queens. She served as Minister of Health and Social Services and Minister Responsible for the Disabled from 1974 to 1978. In the federal election of 1988, Callbeck was elected to the House of Commons as the representative for Malpeque and remained there until 1993 when she resigned her seat to seek the leadership of the Prince Edward Island Liberal Party. While in Ottawa she served as the Official Opposition critic for consumer and corporate affairs, energy, mines and resources, and financial institutions, and as the associate critic for privatization and regulatory affairs. Callbeck was the vice-chair of the Caucus Committee on Sustainable Development. In 1993 she returned to the provincial scene, becoming Liberal leader on 23 January 1993 upon the resignation of Premier Joseph Ghiz*. She was sworn in as Premier and President of Executive Council on 25 January 1993. In that year’s general election, Callbeck led the Liberals to victory, winning 31 of 32 seats. She became Canada’s first elected female premier.
Following the 1993 general election, despite winning a large majority, Callbeck faced a difficult task. The provincial debt was high and the country was in the midst of a recession. Furthermore, federal transfer payments had declined and the interest on the provincial debt was inhibiting government initiatives.
Callbeck felt strongly that the province’s financial house needed to be returned to good order. In 1993 she began a program of government reform. Government departments, crown corporations, and agencies were consolidated. The provincial health care and education systems were rationalized. Beyond these initiatives, Callbeck believed that the deficit problem had to be addressed. The Callbeck Administration legislated a 7.5 per cent wage rollback for provincial public sector employees. Over 12,000 public sector employees were affected. The rollback saved $24.6 million, but it also required breaking several collective agreements.
As historian Dr. Edward MacDonald states in his book, It You're Stronghearted, “The 7.5% Solution proved to be a fiscal success but a political disaster.” Public servants were angry with the government and were vocal in their criticism. The Callbeck Administration’s attempts to rationalize the health care system further alienated the populace. During her time as premier, the government also undertook a far-reaching reform of the provincial electoral system. The 16 dual-member ridings were abolished in favour of 27 new single-member constituencies. These changes in the electoral map were implemented in the 1996 general election. She resigned as premier in August 1996. In the general election held in November 1996, the Liberals suffered defeat under the leadership of Keith Milligan*.
On 23 September 1997, Callbeck was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Jean Chretien. She served as a Member of the Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, and is presently a member of the Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee, and the Transportation and Communications Committee.
Premier Callbeck was a trailblazer for women in politics, provincially and nationally. At the time of her 1974 election, she became the second woman to be elected to the provincial Legislature, and was the youngest woman to be appointed a provincial Cabinet minister and only the second woman to be appointed to the provincial Cabinet.
Callbeck received her early education at the Central Bedeque School and then attended Summerside High School. Subsequently she studied at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, and earned a Bachelor of Commerce in 1960. In 1963 Callbeck earned a Bachelor of Education from Dalhousie University and then went on to complete post-graduate courses in business administration at Syracuse University. She was the recipient of an honourary Doctorate of Laws from Mount Allison University in 1996.
In her early career Callbeck was a business teacher in both New Brunswick and Ontario. She moved back to the Island to work in the family retail business, Callbeck’s Limited, and continues to play a large role in the business today. Callbeck was chair of the board at the Confederation Centre of the Arts and w'as a member of the board of regents at Mount Allison University and the board of governors at the University of Prince Edward Island. She was also a member of the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission and of the board of the Institute for Research in Public Policy. Senator Callbeck was named a director of the Mutual Fund Dealers Association in 1998.
Callbeck has served as a director of the Prince Edward Island United Way Fund and the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, and has been a member of the board of the Prince County Hospital and of the Red Cross Sustaining Membership Program. She has co-chaired Meals-on- Wheels and chaired the Bedeque Area Centennial Days. Callbeck was a member of the Provincial Committee for the International Year of the Disabled and was a director of the Atlantic Canada Institute. She has also been a board member and elder at the Bedeque United Church. Catherine Callbeck lives in the family home in Central Bedeque.

References: CPG 1998-1999; MacDonald It You're Stronghearted pp. 363-65, 369, 372. 374; WWPEI p. 21; Guardian 24 October 1986, 30 March 1993, 29 August 2002; Journal-Pioneer 7 February 1975, 7 August 1996. Guide to abbreviations

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